公共

My interview about a new waterfront high-rise is now online and in many free real estate magazines distributed around Tokyo’s stations

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最近、芝浦についての私のインタビューが出ました。この三井不動産のプロジェクトは、住宅と同時に公共の公園も作り、新い住人と今住んでいる住人とのコミュニティーを作ろうとしています。画期的な計画だと思います。緑と水は人をつなげられます。

In August, I began working with Mitsui Real Estate, Recruit, and a small NGO to introduce a new luxury high-rise residential tower in Shibaura, a less known waterfront area between Shinagawa and Hamamatsucho. It’s near where the base of Rainbow Bridge is located.

In this online interview (in Japanese) and in real estate brochures distributed around Tokyo, I relate my experience working in the neighborhood at Shibaura House, where I led gardening and fieldwork workshops for locals and international visitors, adults and small children.

The new tower, which is just now breaking ground, contributes to the restoration of Edo-era canals by creating a public waterfront park. This park contributes to the developer’s goal of creating a resilient community that includes new and existing residents. Providing greater access to the waterfront also restores a vital part of Tokyo’s history that was neglected in the 20th century.

Tanuki stops for a foot bath on his way into Tokyo. Volunteers remind him of countless rules.

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東京を散歩中に、タヌキさんが足湯で休んでいます。日本の多くの場所のように、この公共の温泉にも数え切れないルールがあります。

At the foot bath, volunteers remind tanuki that, like most places in Japan, there are countless rules to follow here. Can a wild animal find happiness in the world’s largest city? Please find out tomorrow when tanuki visits Shibaura House to discuss Making Friends.

Messy canal edge with limited access, decay, and garbage

芝浦の運河の端に潜り込みました。公共の入口がないので、廃墟とごみが多いです。

We snuck behind some buildings to gain furtive access to the canal. It’s too bad that Shibaura’s many canals cannot be easily accessed. Once by the water, we saw decayed structures and ample garbage.

The end of the walkway is approaching

友だちに会うために、最近に辰巳に行きました。運河がきれいで、新しいマンションが建設されています。しかし、公共のインフラは不全なままです。改良して、水辺に近づけるほうがいいと思います。東京湾をもっと感じたいです。

I recently visited Tatsumi, a landfill island near Yumenoshima in in Koto-ku for a house party. There are lot of new housing developments alongside the canals and neighboring old housing complexes. It’s sad that the public infrastructure is so incomplete. This neighborhood would be much more appealing if the canal-side sidewalks and parks were continuous. This lack of access to the Bay makes me often forget that there is a Tokyo waterfront.

Bus stop chairs are gifted, unmatched, and spontaneous

この歩道と道にあまり植物がありません。けれどもこの停留所の席はとても東京っぽくて、東京グリーンスペースと関連しています。政府はインフラを作ってくれませんから、住民は独自に家の物をリサイクルして、再利用しています。そんな住民のおかげで、公共スペースを分かち合えて、楽しいです。
こんな結果をどのデザイナーも作れません。色も布地も形もみんな違います。この解決法はとてもきれいで適切とはいえませんが、優しい気持ちが伝わります。

この停留所は東京グリーンスペースの比喩です。昔、公共スペースは計画されたことがありません。今は都市の指導者と官僚が車中心社会とメガ開発を支えすぎます。3.11の前、政府が悪くても、東京はいい都市だと思いました。3.11の後、無能な指導者は危ないと思います。

年末が近づくにしたがって、もっと生きている都市をどう作れるかと考えています。

This sidewalk and street have nearly no visible plants. Yet anonymously gifted bus stop chairs are very Tokyo and very much in the spirit of Tokyo green space. Reacting to a lack of infrastructure– no shelter and no seating– neighbors simply recycle and re-use stuff from their homes and share it with neighbors in a public space.

Few designers could have coordinated this unlikely mix of colors, fabrics, and shapes. Its aesthetic arises from its spontaneous appearances. Is this the most beautiful, practical, or ideal solution to the lack of infrastructure? Probably not, although it reflects generosity and concern for others in shared spaces.

I have been writing about Tokyo green space for a while, ever since moving here three years ago. Tokyo is surprisingly green and livable despite the complete absence of planning for public open space, from its rise as Japan’s Edo capitol in the 1600s through the 20th century’s natural and man-made calamities that twice obliterated the city.

Tokyo has such forward-looking urban features like walkable small streets dominated by pedestrians and bicyclists. But these vital paths exist not because of  contemporary Tokyo’s good planning, but because the bureaucracy still in the thrall of automobile infrastructure and mega-developments hasn’t had the chance to alter them.

Documenting Tokyo green space has been a way for me to understand the life of this city. The grass-roots reclaiming of public space certainly increases the city’s appeal. But, post 3.11, I also now wonder if the residents haven’t demanded enough of the city leaders. We now know more clearly the dangers of leaving vital decisions to reckless and outdated politicians and bureaucrats.

As this difficult year ends, I wonder what all of us can do to create a more alive city.

Wildlife pets on parade near Odaiba beach

お台場で一番意外だったことは珍しい動物を見たことです。ペットをどうして飼いたいのかわかりませんでしたが、オーナーたちの愛情と公共の光景が楽しかったです。イチオピアの亀とプレーリードッグと一緒にいると、だれかが話しかけてきて、知らない人と会うことが簡単になります。

One of the unexpected pleasures of visiting Odaiba was exploring the close-knit community of exotic pet owners on the lawn just across from the artificial beach. We met an enormous Ethiopian turtle and two families of prairie dogs.

I confess that my joy for growing plants does not confer any insight into pet ownership. I personally prefer plants over animals when it comes to extra-species cohabitation. Still, I was amazed at the owners’ love for their pets and also the public spectacle they create. The pets are both extra-human companions and also intermediaries for meeting strangers of all ages.